The Rolla golf duo of Audrey Collier and Marliere Toothaker were honored at the Bulldog's District football game on Friday, Oct. 20 after playing in the Missouri State Golf Championships on Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 9-10. In preparation for their celebration at the football game, the pair looked back at the two days they spent in Sedalia competing against the top female golfers in Missouri.
While the Lady Bulldogs wanted to play their best during the State Meet, but they didn't go into play feeling like they had to earn medals in their first trips to State.
"I was just trying to play the best that I could play," said Toothaker. "I knew I wasn't going to place or anything, so I just went out there trying to just enjoy the sport and have a good time playing."
Collier felt the same way. She knew she was going to be seeing some of the top talent in the state, but the meet didn't feel exactly like she though it would,
"I knew we were going to see a lot of good golfers, a lot of competition," said the junior golfer. "(It wasn't quite as expected) because we kind of played with girls that were like our own speed."
Toothaker said that she could feel a different atmosphere early on, but once everyone got settled, it was just another golf tournament.
"You could feel that it was a more serious atmosphere. Everyone was there to play and they were very serious about what they were doing," said Toothaker. "Once you got out there on the course and you played a few holes, everyone relaxed and it was pretty normal."
While things started with a serious and tense atmosphere, Rolla head coach Zack Nixon never saw his players buckle. They just played their game as if they were playing here in Rolla.
"What was fun to watch is that they didn't really change their demeanor. For them, this is any tournament that we've played all season long," said Nixon. "We're gonna go in and do our best every time on every swing, one shot at a time and we're not gonna count anything up and have that special number. When we get to the end, we're gonna count them up and see what we do and that's what they did. Of course, the first tee shot, everybody has butterflies if you're human. They said they were a little nervous on the first one, but after that they just kind of fell into their games."
Both players went out to shoot in the 90's on the first day, with Toothaker shooting an even 90 and Collier shooting a 91. After that first day, they were even more glad they didn't go down to the meet by themselves. Toothaker said it was nice to have someone to talk about the first round with someone while waiting for day two.
"It was super fun being able to hang out with Audrey and just like talk about the first day at night while we were staying over to wait for the second day and just like discussing things," said the Rolla sophomore. "It would've been isolating if I was there or she was there by herself."
Then came day two, which was a very different animal than day one. Mother nature came out in full force with cold weather, wind and rain. While many people would be turned away from rotten weather, day two was Toothaker's favorite experience at State.
"For some reason, I really liked the second day. It was 43 degrees, it was cold out, it was raining, it was definitely not good weather to be playing golf in, but I loved it," said Toothaker. "I loved that there was an extra challenge added with the weather and I thought that it really made me think through shots more and think about how I was playing more. I loved the extra element of the weather."
Collier didn't exactly feel the same way about Tuesday's weather.
"My toughest thing was definitely the weather," said Collier with a laugh. "I mean, you can't really use it as an excuse, you've just gotta play how you play normally and just get through it. Don't whine about it too much."
Coach Nixon was proud of the way both of his golfers responded to the weather on that second day.
"I just told them that a lot of people are going to blame the conditions before they even go out to the course," said Nixon. "We want to be the people that focus on our processes and techniques, which I emphasized to them all season. I told them that everyone is playing in the same conditions, so they aren't really a factor in what we're trying to do. We're going to take them into account, but we're not going to let them bother us mentally or let them take us down too much."
The girls said that they weren't too worried about medalling because they both have a chance to go back next season. Collier and Toothaker both said they plan on putting in a lot of work throughout the next year so they can get closer to that medal stand next season.
"Just work really hard throughout the summer, going to a lot of different tournaments around the area," said Collier of her gameplan for improving next season. Toothaker added, "Playing a lot throughout the whole year, so that way the swing stays consistent and playing over the summer too. I'd say specific club-wise, I'd say my irons like 120 yards in I definitely need to work on getting those down a little bit more."
Coach Nixon things this trip to State helped them get a feel for what they'll need to do to medal next year. That should launch them to more success in 2018.
"I think that was exactly what it was for next year, because they're dedicated and hard-working," said Nixon. "This was something to spring board into next season to give them motivation."
As Collier and Toothaker begin preparation for next season, Toothaker said the biggest lesson she'll take away from State is the driving to keep fighting.
"Definitely take never giving up, even if the whole situation is awful, especially with the weather and it being like 43 degrees and windy and rainy and whatnot," said Nixon. "Even though that was awful, not letting that effect you and even pushing though and trying to do better than you did before. That's definitely what I learned."
At the end of the day, Nixon couldn't be more proud of Collier and Toothaker. Rolla had gone seven years without sending a female golfer to State and now they had two in one year. He hopes this helps build the team as a whole.
"I'm just happy with the way the season went, because it's been seven years since we had a girl go to State and then this year we have two. It was just awesome," said Nixon. "We had a small, but amazing squad. 50 percent (made it to State) then the other girls who didn't make it still tried to come in and practice after they didn't have to. That just kind of embodies everything we did this season. Hopefully that kind of attracts more girls to the team next year, because we'd like to have a full varsity and junior varsity. It's just a great sport."
Nixon was also quick to point out that it takes a village to help get these girls to State and had a few people to thank.
"There are some people I'd like to thank, because this season couldn't have happened without a few people," said Nixon. "Oak Meadow and the board members have been so supportive every time they come out. A couple come to mind, Tom Thomas donated balls, coach Miles donated balls to the girls and the parents. Everybody came together to work as a support system for these girls."
Hopefully the combination of a support system and the hard work of players like Collier and Toothaker will help Nixon build a foundation for future success.
"With the other girls, I think that's the thing," said Nixon. "If you guys get in now, maybe we can bring a whole team to State and kind of use this as a platform and a foundation for building the team for years to come."